"Hey there, what's yer name?" the man slurred at her, the stench of alcohol lining his breath and tainting his judgment.
She ignored him.
"Y'know, that's a pretty nice uniform. What school ya go to?" another one asked, further disrupting the peace of the empty diner. He tugged insistently at her school uniform. His face was flush from the booze, and getting far too close.
She ignored him too.
"Heeeyyyy nowwww," the first replied. "Being confeedential? That's cool, that's cOOL. You don't wanna get in trouble, right? How old are you, anyway?"
She knew this was a bad idea. Normally she would avoid dives like this at all costs and opt instead to stay as discreet as possible as she tried her hardest to make each loop work out. Why waste time with these fools? She should just make it stop - make it all stop and go, leaving the drunken idiots gaping like the hammered morons they were when they realized that the target of their desires vanished into thin air.
This is what Homura Akemi thought.
Yet why did she not? Why did Homura put up with them, they who were starting to get far too boisterous for her liking?
Was it all just because he told her that he'd be back soon?
Because it was him?
In order to achieve her goals, the girl had taken it upon herself to kill her emotions. In order to save her, she had turned herself into a cold being, willing to even go so far as to make her cry if it meant preventing her from forming that damnable contract. This was all her decision, and she did not regret it. Homura Akemi did this all for her, for Madoka Kaname.
So if that was the path she had taken, then why hadn't she done what she normally would have done and blown off the men (possibly literally via a .44 if they had been this persistent in the other loops) without a second thought?
"Yo! Where in the hell are yer manners? We're tryin' a talk to ya, and yer ignorin' us? That's rude!" The first one grabbed her shoulder forcefully, much too forcfully.
"Hey, when someone talks to you, you better give them the attention they deserve, stupid bitch! Don't they teach you anything in that preppy candy-ass school of yours, Missy?" Flecks of alchol-infused saliva sprayed from his gaping mouth as griped at her, his voice rising to volatile levels.
Without warning the violater's grip was torn away from her shoulder with the distinctive sound of cracking bone by a large, strong hand. The force and momentum was enough to actually send the guy sprawling back onto the table opposite the counter that Homura was sitting at.
A familiar hand.
Homura Akemi's eyes widened ever so slightly.
"Just in case it did not get through your numbskulls the first time, the girl doesn't want anything to do with you." The white-haired newcomer with the eyes like grey steel said, with a voice like a drawn blade.
"What the fuck's your problem, buddy? What are you to her, she your girlfriend or some shit like that?"
The heckler that did not get tossed into the table was downright pissed off. With a capital "P". What gave this man the right to just muscle in like that? Who went and named him Emperor? Regardless, his alcohol-addled mind told him that he did not like this man at all. Not one bit.
"Me? I am her bodyguard, and neither you nor your boyfriend can touch her."
"Oh bullSHIT!" The one who was thrown at the table responded as he picked himself up off of the leftovers from the last customer."You're just muscling in because you're looking for a little action too! You wanna tap that, and you're just doing some hocus-pocus crap with this 'knight in shinining armor' fuckery, you damn hypocrite!"
The heckler was glaring daggers at him. But that was nothing.
The man in black before him glared swords. If only the drunkard knew just how close he was to experiencing a literal example of this, then he would have shut up pronto.
Homura had actually seen him do that before.
"Whatever man, who said you could talk for her?" the other's compatriot said. "She can speak for herself, can't you? C'mon, I know you're not mute." He reached for her once more-
"Gyugh-!" his entire arm was suddenly twisted into a postion that it was never meant to be in.
"If you touch the girl one more time, I will break your arm. But then again, I don't think a single arm would be enough for you to get the hint. Might take both arms, maybe even a leg. Oh, and your friend? He'll get his, too..."
That look in the man's eyes was deadly serious. He meant every single word of it, and without a doubt he would follow through if the situation came to that. After all, his "threats" were always "promises" in actuality, especially with her.
"Go on then, give me a good reason, whelp."
"TCH! GUh! Alright, alright! Fine, we'll go, we'll go. EH!" As he gave his answer, the white-haired man shoved the punk away, the way one would toss out the flithy garbage. "Whatever. Yuuno, let's get out of here. THis bitch ain't worth our time."
While stammering out of the restaurant, the one his partner called "Yuuno" pushed the tan-skinned man aggresively, as if to get in the last word as immaturely as possible.
Tense like a drawn bow, that was all he needed to let them know about his feelings towards them.
She called her that.
"I'm sorry. It was a mistake to leave you alone here like this." He admitted, looking at her with those strong, yet somewhat sad(?) eyes. "Come on, let's go somewhere else."
Why...? Why did she sound so meek right now? Was it because she felt like she did back then, like she could be allowed to be Homura Akemi once more? Was that it?
Regardless of the answer, she got up from her seat at the stool and followed her self-proclaimed guardian out of the diner.
Her newfound companion, the man who called himself Archer.
"Why did you protect me like that?" Homura asked as she stared into the obscuring steam rising from her ramen, the soup served to her by the street vendor on this dark, late night.
"That's not a problem, is it?" Archer asked as he dipped his chopsticks into the warm noodles and fished out a delectable slice of pork.
"You know what I can do, that I can take care of myself. So why? Why did you do, that?"
Her own chopsticks remained untouched as of yet. Because she had to know, even though hey had been together, been partners for a brief while now, she had to know more about this man.
"Well, it's because of something my father told me, a long time ago." Archer began, idly stirring his ramen as his eyes glazed over with reminiscence, as if gazing upon a distant memory. "He always told me that I need to protect the women in my life, that it's a man's duty to do so. Or something like that..." Archer smiled rather contentedly at that last part of his tale. "The way YOU choose to act, have to act, it doesn't suit you at all. If what I do makes it so that you don't have to be that way, if I can shoulder your burdens, take your responsibilities as my own, then I'll do so."
"Oh? ... Oh, oh!" Homura did not need to think long about what Archer had told her. "Th-thank, thank..." She quickly brought a large wad of the hot noodles to her mouth and went to work chewing on them before she could reply an further. "Mmph!"
Perhaps a little too large...
"Hey now, slow down a little there. You don't want to burn your throat now, do you?" Archer used his napkin to wipe Homura's face, cleaning up any spilt broth before it could stain her uniform. "Take it easy, okay?"
"Eh? Oh? Oh, okay then." The dark hair girl replied, blushing gently from being doted on by her partner. "Uh, about before, is that, is that really the only reason you protected me like that?"
Archer took another bite of ramen, and chewed unhurriedly before answering as thoughtfully as he could. "About that: Actually, a long, long time ago, I had a little sister - a sister that I never knew that I ever had. She was older than me, but that never stopped her from being my little sister. She was so happy and full of life, and she was one of the most precious things to me in the entire world, a person that I loved the most. But then, a year after we had met for the very first time she...she...passed away."
...She felt it...
...And so did he...
"I felt guilty about it. Very guilty about it. In retrospect I was entirely blameless, of course, but that did not make me feel any better. Does not make me feel any better about it. I felt as if I had failed her as a hero, somehow, because she died like that. It's baseless, certainly, but you know what? That's the kind of man I was back then." Archer took a long sip of tea from his cup. "Looking back on it, her death must have been what set me down the path I went, the path I regret. If I could get a second chance - if one ever presented itself - I would take it, without a doubt."
A desire to set things right because of some mistake. A mistake cause by noble intentions with disatrous results.
Like what happened to her.
"When I see you, Homura-chan, I see myself, and I see my dearly beloved sister. How can I not want to take care of that? Take care of you, her, and me?"
What he said, resonated with her deeply.
"You want to help her, your friend, right? Then please let me do my best for you, for both of our sakes. After all..." Determination turns to a rougish grin, the kind that women fall for. He was going to do that again, wasn't he? "...I want to help love along as much as the next guy."
"A-Archer!" Homura Akemi, for the first time in a long time, and yet having it happen rather recently as of late to her, became flabbergasted.
"I'm confident that your friend Madoka will appreciate all of your efforts. When she sees what you've been doing for her, I'm absolutely certain that she'll be willing to accept your love."
"Archerrrrr!...D-don't say it like that! Why do you do this? It makes me feel embarassed..."
"I do this because you have such cute reactions when I tease you like this."
"Buuuu..." Homura stared at him with those baleful eyes, glossed over with unshed tears; groaned in response to him in a way that could be described with only one word:
"There there, I'm just playing around. You know that much." Archer smiled gently and patted her head re-assuringly, like the way a brother would comfort a little sister.
"Can you let me make it up to you?" She nods shyly, her face still tinged with pink. "Hey, Cook? Could we have some tempura on the side?"
"Right away, sir!"
Very much the way a brother would comfort a little sister.
As he finally went to get settled down for the night, Archer took note of the bed in the modest hotel room.
Homura had fallen asleep on top of the bed without even changing or covering up.
He could not blame her. It was a late night, after all.
Quietly as a mouse, Archer made his way on over to her and laid down a thick and warm blanket on top of her. He took care to tuck her in, as snug and comfortably as possible. It was times like these that all those times he himself had tucked Illya in would really pay off - not that she ever really slept by herself most of the time. More often than not, Illya would crawl into his futon while he was sound asleep and grip him like a koala, happier with nothing more than being with her dear brother.
Asleep like this, Homura looked so calm, so peaceful, just like his sister had way back in those happy bygone days of old.
Times like these made him sad, and happy.
Oh, how if he could only go back and set it all right, then maybe the path of the Counter Guardian would not be his fate...
...but with Homura at his side - the girl he wants, needs to protect from the treacheries and dangers of the Witches and Incubator, he was a little more certain that maybe he could succeed. That they could succeed. That he could get his second chance with his friends, with his sister, with his lover.
With thoughts like these in his head, Archer drifted to sleep on the sofa, allowing Homura the entirety of the queen-sized bed.
Archer awoke in the middle of the night from where he had fallen asleep on the sofa. This was not unusual. After all, even as a teenager bouts of restlessness would hit him until he went into his shed, his sanctuary and continued on from there.
Boy, did he miss his shed now more than ever before.
However, his mind did not linger on thoughts of his beloved "workshop" for long. The reason for this, was lying asleep on top of him and snoring cutely.
The girl was fast asleep, and would not be awaken by a whisper like that. Yet, something within her responded to her name being called out quietly, and she answers that by cuddling even closer to the man she sought.
Archer sighed, resigning himself to this new development. Being put into such a situation like the one before him, there was only one way to deal with this...
With his strong, corded arms - arms far too used to taking life - Emiya Shirou wrapped the girl snuggled on top of him in a tight, kind hug and fell asleep like that until dawn broke.
Exactly like what he had done back when he was alive.
The Future in Store?
This one gained some notoriety elsewhere on the internet, so I figured I should post it here too.